Your diet could be harming your child

21/10/2015 Help for Parents

In September this year, a toddler who was double the average weight for her age was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. In an age of increasing childhood diet-related disease, who’s to blame?

The European Association for the Study of Diabetes found that the family had poor nutritional habits. This, coupled with a lack of exercise, led to the development of a type of diabetes that usually occurs after middle age.

Even though the toddler returned to a normal blood glucose level following medical intervention, the role of parents in this case was vital (incidentally, both parents were found to be obese).

Parents and carers are the very first step to healthy eating behaviours learnt in childhood. As role models, the minute a parent engages with a diet or series of diets, or starts to discuss food in dietary terms – even ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – the message has already trickled through.

So what should we do?

  1. Stop the diet and stop victimising foods. There are no good or bad foods; it’s not ‘naughty’ to have a biscuit with your tea. We all need to embrace balance and understand ‘all the time’ foods and ‘sometimes foods’. It’s logical.
  2. Remember – you are the role model, so be gentle and kind to your body.
  3. Tune into what your natural eating pattern is. Ask yourself what you feel your body needs and tune into when you’re hungry and full.
  4. Remember you can be healthy at every size through a varied nutritional intake, by moving your body and keeping a check on your stress levels.
  5. Health (both mental and physical) is like an elastic band; too much stretching to the extremes will eventually result in a snap.
  6. Get serious and prioritise. Invest a little time in your own and your family’s nutritional health. Plan ahead.
  7. If you do want to make changes, choose one small step that you would like to gently modify or put in place. Small steps building up over time are the key to long-term positive habits.
  8. Remember that role modelling healthy eating is also about how you eat. It’s easy to eat in front of the TV but, because of it’s distracting, it’s difficult to fully engage with the food you eat, taste the flavours and realise when you’re full. Mindful eating, eating together as a family and prioritising meal time is a great way to develop healthy eating behaviours that last a lifetime.
  9. Stop waiting for the magic weight loss pill. Lifestyle changes take time, they need flexibility and are often a matter of trial and error.